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Skin (2009)



Average Rating: 6.8/10
Reviews Counted: 62
Fresh: 53 | Rotten: 9

Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill, and Alice Krige do wonderful work in Skin, delivering performances whose strength is underlined by the incredible real-life events upon which the movie is based.


Average Rating: 6.6/10
Critic Reviews: 21
Fresh: 16 | Rotten: 5

Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill, and Alice Krige do wonderful work in Skin, delivering performances whose strength is underlined by the incredible real-life events upon which the movie is based.



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Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 2,030

My Rating

Movie Info

A dark-skinned girl born to white South African parents attempts to explore her identity in the era of apartheid as her government, her parents, and society as a whole struggle with what it means to be a black child of Caucasian descent in a nation deeply divided by race. The year is 1955. Sandra Laing (Sophie Okonedo) has just been born to a pair of white Afrikaner parents, her brown skin and curly hair the surprising result of genetic throwback. As the government's rigid apartheid system

Feb 1, 2011

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Latest News on Skin

October 29, 2009:
Critics Consensus: This Is It Is Certified Fresh
This week at the movies brings only one wide release: the hotly-anticipated performance documentary...


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All Critics (65) | Top Critics (23) | Fresh (53) | Rotten (9) | DVD (1)

Laing's life, despite its inherent melodrama, does not automatically lend itself to the screen. And without the aid of a smart script or a prevailing sense of delicacy, a movie about her or apartheid risks being a blunt instrument.

January 14, 2010 Full Review Source: Boston Globe | Comment (1)
Boston Globe
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December 15, 2009 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
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Potent, still relevant and inspiring while maddening, Skin shows some of our best and much of our worst.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
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Every emotion is underscored with sugary music, every narrative plot progression telegraphed with the mechanical structural stiffness of a made-for-TV movie.

December 10, 2009 Full Review Source: New York Observer
New York Observer
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It feels hurried, looks cheap, and works overtime to simplify a complex, flawed character into a noble, tragic heroine. The film speaks fluent cliché.

November 12, 2009 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
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This great film by Anthony Fabian tells this story through the eyes of a happy girl who grows into an outsider.

November 12, 2009 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
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Intense family drama about race, identity during apartheid.

February 17, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

The most remarkable elements of the true story of Sandra Laing survive intact, despite a rather unremarkable bigscreen retelling of her life.

August 9, 2010 Full Review Source:

While it's important we never forget the horrendous evils of humanities past, Skin is sadly one social studies class too many.

August 8, 2010 Full Review Source: | Comments (2)

Something akin to a Sunday afternoon TV movie of the week.

August 4, 2010 Full Review Source:

The storytelling maybe undistinguished but the performances power it.

July 22, 2010 Full Review Source: MovieTime, ABC Radio National
MovieTime, ABC Radio National

Performances are impeccable, and location shooting in South Africa adds to the power of an impressive true story.

July 21, 2010 Full Review Source: At the Movies (Australia)
At the Movies (Australia)

While conventionally told, this thought-provoking film features deeply moving performances and compels audiences to consider the issues it raises.

July 19, 2010 Full Review Source: FILMINK (Australia)
FILMINK (Australia)

An extraordinary story, one that only real life could invent... You won't forget this film in a hurry

July 16, 2010 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

A haunting film that tells its unforgettable tale about a coloured girl, born to white parents in South Africa, with simplicity and heartfelt sentiment

July 16, 2010 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Based on a true story, Skin follows the life of a black-skinned girl born to white Afrikaners in a society where segregation is stronger than family.

March 25, 2010 Full Review Source: Moving Pictures Magazine
Moving Pictures Magazine

From an increasingly vibrant cinema about South Africa.

January 13, 2010 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

Once the absurdity of the situation has been accepted, the film plays out like a made for television docu drama, with Sandra constantly challenged and overcoming...

January 3, 2010 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

Great performances and a smart decision to avoid melodrama make Skin worth seeing but it's the small things that hold it back from being truly great.

November 13, 2009 Full Review Source: Movie Retriever
Movie Retriever

Given the subject matter, I wish there were more outrage and passion in Skin, which plods from one huge event to another.

November 13, 2009 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

Audience Reviews for Skin

A true story converted to film usually is bastardised in the process, and while that is true here the strength of the story itself, about how we encourage racial distinctions and the price of that decision, carries this film throughout with a sense of childhood betrayed that stays long after the credits roll. The execution is flawed but the punch loses no power.
July 24, 2012

Super Reviewer

Based on a true story. This movie really makes one re-think what they "know", and "believe", about race. This lady's story is truly a sad, and unjust one, and prompted me to research apartheid era racial classification tests, and the life of Sandra Laing. This unusual case really highlights the effects of South Africa's racial classification system. Very interesting story with actual footage at the end of her, and her white family.
August 29, 2011

Super Reviewer

I usually approach docu-dramas cautiously - they can certainly be a mixed bag, where the story usually trumps any attempt at creating art; thankfully Skin, due to the very nature of its story, is so compelling that it transcends the genre.

Telling the story of a 1960's South African girl, born to white Afrikaner parents, Skin shows us apartheid up close and personal, since Sandra, the young girl in question, appears to be "black". The story shows it all, how the government's rigid yet ridiculous determinations of race affect both sides of the equation, leaving Sandra an outcast in both worlds. The story focuses on Sandra as she grows up - from getting tossed from an all white (segregated due to Apartheid) school due to her appearance, to her late teen years as her white parents try to hook her up with suitable white suitors. Ultimately she falls for a black man who seems the only man who can make her smile. When her father finds out he has his own daughter arrested - since doing the horizontal with someone not of your race is considered a moral crime.

What strikes you most, aside from the austere terrain, is how Sandra is a woman with one foot in each world, and yet an outcast in both. By law she cannot marry outside her race, so the children she produces with her black "husband" are considered an affirmation of her lawlessness, and is always aware that the government can step in at any moment and take her children from her. And yet she "looks black" so cannot find a good "white" job, or fit in with white society.

The story is heartbreaking showing not only Sandra's strong character, but how a system can destroy - case in point is the destruction of Sandra's black shanty town; not only do the bulldozers level the place (so white folk can develop the area), but they also destroy the dreams and ultimately the soul of Sandra's man - as well as the formerly loving relationship they had together.

There was no reason for any of this, and yet bigotry still runs rampant, each generation instilling the same fear and apprehension of things we find different from ourselves.

I found the performances profound throughout, especially that of Sophie Okonedo as Sandra and Alice Krieg as her mother, caught in two hells - the one concerning the color of her daughter's skin and a second as a 1960's wife who must meekly obey her husband, though it breaks her heart to do so.

A thought provoking film on so many levels - this should be required viewing for all early teens.
August 22, 2011
paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

The best moments of "Skin" occur in the background depiction of the country itself. South Africa fairly shimmers beneath a sun-tinted lens, brimming from the tips of a wheat stalk to a scarlet patch on a headscarf with rich culture and change. If the rest of film were handled with such subtlety and attention, "Skin" would surely serve the purpose it was meant for, bringing attention to an imperative social issue.

But subtle it is not. Sandra's father, Abraham Laing (Sam Neill, "Jurassic Park"), is an angry, racist maniac whose hate for his daughter and everything she represents is painfully transparent. His obsession with getting his daughter reclassified as white as a young child quickly escalates to insanity - banging things on the wall, screaming nonsensical obscenities and gesticulating wildly to his skin.

Okonedo's portrayal of Sandra is no better. To whatever extent Neill overacts, Okonedo seems to withdraw from the screen with equal degree, with hunched back and morose looks. Fledgling director Anthony Fabian doesn't leave the film room to breathe for itself, and instead resorts to cheap tricks to hound sentimentality, when the story alone could have survived without manipulation. These exaggerated character polarizations scream their purpose loud and clear - racism is bad, bad, bad.

"Skin" is a film that can raise a lot of good questions about race and skin color, at least on the premise of the true story that it was based on. The source material is rich with intricacies and brings attention to the poignant horrors of segregation and human rights abuse of the era. With its clunky, overwrought handling of apartheid, however, "Skin" is just one of the worst possible films that could've been made from it.
April 29, 2011

Super Reviewer

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